Our MGA started life with disc wheels but we decided to convert it to wires instead. After locating a donor chassis the conversion was completed but we didn’t realize how worn the splines on one of the wheels was. One day I was driving the MGA home along the coast and had to hit the brakes harder than normal. The most horrific sound ever resonated through the car and I knew right away what the problem was. I had spun a wheel. I managed to get the car home and parked in the garage.

Not long afterward, I had collected new hubs and wheels for the car and made an appointment at a local garage to get it all installed. I checked the wheel before leaving and all was tight so we proceeded to the shop, me in the MGA and Linda following in another car. Slowing at an intersection, a car pulled in front of me and I had to hit the brakes harder than planned. The wheel, not unexpectedly, spun again and not only did it make the terrifying sound again but I locked the rear wheels with the hand brake. A pedestrian crossing the street nearly jumped out of her skin at the howling, grinding, tire screeching car bearing down on her! I thought of checking the knockoff at this point but would have to find a place to pull over. The light changed to green and I accelerated. As soon as I crossed the intersection the unthinkable happened…

…the wheel flew off the car!

Now grinding down the street and watching the wheel go on without me I was surprised at what was going through my head. Not panic or worry but…

“Wow, this is an unusual experience. Guess it really does happen! I bet Linda is freaking out behind me. Wait, I hope I’m not sliding on the front fender. Wow, look at that wheel go. It’s going to get to the shop before me! Gee, I really hope I’m not sliding on the front fender. That would be expensive to fix. Ya know, the car still handles pretty well with only three wheels. I’m just gonna pull it over. I hope I’m not sliding on the valence too. Maybe someone can sit on the opposite corner of the car and I’ll just keep driving.”

I got the car to the side of the road after what seemed like an eternity but in reality was only a few seconds and 50 feet of road. Linda passed me in her car, following the wheel rolling down the 4-lane road. I watched with a combination of awe, horror and amusement as it bounced and rolled merrily along, missing all traffic, then missing all the parked cars as it went over a curb and continued on. The wheel eventually ran into an apartment building and came to a stop. I got out of the car and was extremely relieved, and somewhat surprised, to find no damage whatsoever to the car except that the brake drum was scratched up along the outside edge where it had valiantly tried to pass itself off as a road wheel.

Next thing I saw was my wonderful wife running top speed across four lanes of traffic with a wire wheel in her hands. Last task would be to find the knockoff which I figured was back by the intersection. Walking that way, a homeless man pointed and said “the wheel went that way and the other piece went that way”. I followed his directions and saw my nice shiny knockoff sitting in the street. “It’s still good!”, I thought. Traffic passed it by, narrowly missing and I once again thought “It’s still good!” Then a van ran over it with both wheels and it tumbled down the road. Rats! By the time I got it the chrome was gouged. Time for a new one. The old will remain a reminder of the lessons learned today.

I figured the spare wheel in the trunk had plenty of spline left and should hold for the short remainder of the trip to the shop. I installed the wheel and hammered it on. Nearly tight, I nicked the lip of the wheel well with the edge of the hammer, just hard enough to leave a small chip. *sigh*

Spare wheel on the car, I started it up and pulled away from the curb. The car lost all spark and died. (Later found out the condenser quit, possibly from the shock?) So there I was after all that, wheel on the car and ready to go, with no spark and no proper tool kit. In fifteen minutes I had gone from idiot to moron. The tow truck arrived in just under an hour.

15 Lessons learned, in order of occurrence:

1. Whatever it is, yes it can happen.
2. When you spin a wheel, stop driving the car.
3. Theoretically, an MGA can be driven with three wheels.
4. A wheel has a mind of its own. Trust it to find it’s own way.
5. If you think it’s still good, think again.
6. If you see a woman running through traffic with a wire wheel, marry her.
7. A jack will not fit under the car when the wheel is already off. Carry a smaller one.
8. Always carry tools.
9. When something breaks, plan to fix the car twice.
10. Homeless people can be useful in a crisis.
11. Your car is smarter than you. If you try to drive it again after losing a wheel, it will stop running.
12. When you walk to the auto parts store to buy a multi-meter, make sure batteries are included.
13. When you walk to the liquor store to buy batteries for a multi-meter, make sure you have a tiny plillips screwdriver to take the cover off with.
14. When you walk to Rite-Aid to buy a tiny phillips screwdriver, make sure the tow truck isn’t going to show up right when you get back.
15. Auto Club. It’s not just a club, it’s a lifestyle!